Grilled Sardines

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Serves: 2
  • Level: easy

In this case, grilled means barbecued, but a grill works well too.

It’s the end of the barbecue season and I bought some briquettes on sale. My real barbecue is on loan, so I constructed a makeshift version out of four bricks, an old rusted iron oven pan and the grill from our cooker. It worked a treat. However, I hadn’t realised the nights were drawining in quite so quickly – so most of the cooking was done not only in the the company of a few determined mosquitos but also by the moonlight.

This recipe is from Jarvis in Norbiton, where I bought my sardines. The fish were spanking fresh and looked like they had been lifted from the sea only a few hours earlier. I suggested that I would put them on the barbecue and the fishmonger said absolutely – just as they are, no cleaning – bit of salt and olive oil. I said like they do them in Spain, and he replied, yes, and Portugal… and I suppose you can add any country you like that has access to sardines, warm weather, the seasid and beaches.

For surely, the eating barbecued sardines is hard-wired in our minds to make us think of hot, sunny holidays by the sea.


Can't get to the Mediterranean on hols? Barbecue some sardines and you will be transported.

What you need

6-8 whole – very fresh – sardines uncleaned


Olive oil

2 tsp dried oregano

1 lemon

Small bunch of parsley

A barbecue

How Dad Cooked It

This recipe uses whole uncleaned fish. It does not alter the flavour, and it does not make the eating any more tricky than a cleaned sardine. You do not need to scale the fish, however, I found that the scales come off easily whilst rinsing in water or during marinade process. The scales may help protect the fish – but in the blistering ordeal of grilling over hot flames I don’t believe it matters much one way or the other. The fish are salted for half an hour – it firms them up.

I resisted adding other ingredients to the sardines, either in preparation, or as garnish – or when served. It’s true, if your sardines are very fresh, keep the cooking as as simple as possible to really appreciate how delicious sardines can be, as Mr Jarvis says, just as they are…

  1. Rinse the sardines, removing any scales that come away easily. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of salt over the sardines and leave for 30 minutes.
  2. Light or heat the barbecue.
  3. Rinse the sardines again and drain. Season with salt and pepper, add the oregano. Pour a good glug of olive oil over the sardines and mix.
  4. Cook over a hot barbecue – or under the grill – for about about 3-4 minutes per side or until they are slighly charred and cooked through. (This will depend on the heat of the barbecue or grill.)
  5. Place the sardines on a serving dish and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately with lemon, a mixed salad and good crusty bread.

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